Thursday, June 21, 2018
Stage

Largo's Eight O'Clock Theatre puts on the musical 'Hair'

LARGO — Hair. Be there or be square.

For the first time in Eight O'Clock Theatre history, the high-energy Broadway musical about the flower-power generation is coming to the Largo Cultural Center. Curtains rise at 8 p.m.

The show is packed with soaring rock anthems, a youthful cast of 20 free-spirited hippies, mature content, and let's not forget, the nude scene.

During the production number, Where Do I Go, the "tribe" of hippies emerges unclothed through slits in a parachute.

It's a tasteful scene, dimly lit in silhouette, that shouldn't offend most audience members, said Michael Newton-Brown, who is directing the production for Eight O'Clock Theatre.

There is a reason for the bare-nakedness, he said.

Claude, the leading man, is struggling with his conscience and "the tribe is showing their support and love and giving him the answer," Newton-Brown said. (The answer is found in their chant, "Beads. Flowers. Freedom. Happiness.")

So was it a challenge to find actors willing to shed their bellbottoms and tie-dyes?

"Not at all," he said. "The cast of millennials is a very interesting generation. They were raised on the Internet, are aware of the world, and basically have no problem with nudity."

Clothing was optional in the scene; those who preferred not to disrobe hold up the parachute.

• • •

The year is 1968 and a group of young bohemians are living in a commune in New York City's East Village. They spend their days and nights romping, rebelling, doing drugs and rocking songs like Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine, Let the Sunshine In and Hair.

They hold Be-Ins and peace rallies. They tout love not war — and they practice what they preach.

Newton-Brown has assembled a talented cast to carry it all off.

Among them is Scott Hamilton, 30, who plays Claude, the tribal leader whose fed-up parents want him to get a job or join the Army. Heck, they'd be tickled if he'd just bathe.

"Claude wants to respect his parents' wishes and make them proud, yet at the same time, he has different beliefs of his own," said Hamilton, who played the same lead role several years ago in a Tampa production.

Claude's co-leader is Berger, a psychedelic teddy bear type, always up for a hug or a drug. Said Daniel Hayes, 24, who plays the role with gusto, "He's always ready to party. Unlike Claude, who's more of a father figure, Berger's got a lot of growing up to do. But there are a lot of layers to Berger."

Erica Goldman, 26, portrays Sheila, "a protestor on a mission to spread love," she said. It's a role Goldman said she's been rehearsing for most of her life.

"We've been singing these songs for years. They are all so great you can't contain yourself," she said.

• • •

Hair is a fun, daring and romanticized flashback to a tumultuous time in our history, a time when some 58,000 U.S. military members lost their lives in the Vietnam War. Drug overdoses were common back then and still happen at an alarming rate today. Even though its only theatre, watching the character of pregnant woman do drugs is cringe-worthy.

The show contains adult content and is recommended for mature audiences only.

Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at [email protected]

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